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More Syria Evacuations as UN Weighs Observer Plan


Members of a Syrian family carry their belongings after they crossed into Turkey at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria, near Hatay, southeastern Turkey, Dec, 18, 2016.

Monday brought more evacuations from the last rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria, and a pair of villages under rebel siege.

Activists and local officials said about 20 buses filled with evacuees went from eastern Aleppo to opposition-held areas as part of an operation that began last week.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted Monday that 20,000 people have been evacuated so far "to the area under control of the opposition".

Thousands of people remain in eastern Aleppo, where rebels seized control in 2012, but have lost nearly all of their territory during an offensive by government troops.

WATCH: Some Aleppo Refugees Arrive in Turkey


In exchange for the Aleppo evacuations, the government has demanded thousands of sick and injured civilians be allowed to leave Foua and Kefraya in northwest Idlib province. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 buses left those villages on Monday carrying evacuees.

Syrians put their belongings into vehicles after crossing into Turkey at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria, near Hatay, southeastern Turkey, Dec. 18, 2016.

Syrians put their belongings into vehicles after crossing into Turkey at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria, near Hatay, southeastern Turkey, Dec. 18, 2016.

On Sunday, al-Qaida-aligned rebel fighters attacked and burned buses bound for Foua and Kefraya, drawing a strong rebuke from U.N. humanitarian adviser for Syria Jan Egeland.

“Reckless armed men burning buses for Foua and Kefraya undermine evacuation and relief for all civilians in besieged areas in Syria,” Egeland complained in a Twitter post. The Syrian Observatory said Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, was behind the bus burnings.

Security Council

The U.N. Security Council is due to vote Monday on whether to send observers to Aleppo and to help provide protection for the civilians who remain.

Buses sent to evacuate residents from al-Foua and Kafraya arrive at a rebel-held checkpoint on the outskirts of the two Syrian villages under rebel siege, Dec. 18, 2016.

Buses sent to evacuate residents from al-Foua and Kafraya arrive at a rebel-held checkpoint on the outskirts of the two Syrian villages under rebel siege, Dec. 18, 2016.

The Security Council will consider a French proposal that expresses alarm at the worsening humanitarian crisis, and for the "tens of thousands of besieged Aleppo inhabitants" in need of evacuation. But Western diplomats told VOA they hold out little hope that the proposal will be approved by Russia, an ally of Syria's president and a veto wielding member of the council. Moscow has vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

Evacuations were suspend from eastern Aleppo Friday by the government in Damascus as rebel groups, international organizations and the Assad regime traded accusations about who was to blame.

Russia said the operation to evacuate civilians and insurgents from eastern Aleppo was complete, but opposition leaders said thousands still want to flee and accused Iranian militias and Hezbollah of executing several men in the last convoy to leave the city.

In this still image taken from video from Syria TV vehicles wait to cross into east Aleppo at Ramouseh crossing point, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Dozens of vehicles were on standby at the Ramouseh crossing point near Aleppo on Sunday morning.

In this still image taken from video from Syria TV vehicles wait to cross into east Aleppo at Ramouseh crossing point, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Dozens of vehicles were on standby at the Ramouseh crossing point near Aleppo on Sunday morning.


According to Syrian opposition leaders, the convoy carrying 800 people, including rebel fighters, was stopped by Iranian commanded militiamen in the Jisr al-Haj district. They forcibly disarmed the insurgents in breach of an agreement and seized a team of civil defense workers overseeing the convoy evacuation, killing three of them.

"Militias forced everyone to get off the buses, confiscated all individual weapons, forced men to get undressed to their underwear, killed three men and wounded seven others, then forced the convoy to go back to the besieged area of Aleppo city, and some buses are still missing,” said a witness, Ahmad Abo Al-Nour.

On Saturday, civilians and rebel fighters waiting for buses to evacuate them were shot at by Iranian-led militias loyal to Assad, according to activists.

People warm themselves around a fire while waiting to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Dec. 17, 2016.

People warm themselves around a fire while waiting to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Dec. 17, 2016.

An agreement struck Saturday was to give safe passage to those loyal to Assad's regime, including Iranian militia groups, from areas held or besieged by rebels, the Aleppo Media Center activist group said.

It was a new demand in exchange for the evacuation of civilians, rebels and others loyal to the opposition from eastern Aleppo, now almost entirely in government control.

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher trapped in eastern Aleppo said he has no choice but to try to leave with a young daughter. “The weather is so cold,” he said. “The children are hungry they are crying. They are freezing.” He said people are afraid they will not be able to get out.”

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